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Marion Independent School District Looks to Make Budget Cuts

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MARION, Iowa - The Marion Independent School Board is in a financially tight spot.

The district hasn't made any final decisions, but the school board needs to come up with $900,000.

They are looking at several different ways to make cuts.

"We don't have as much revenue coming in as we have in expenditures," said Superintendent Sarah Pinion.

School finance leaders said a mix of issues caused the current situation, including special education funding, staff raises and not enough state money.

School Board President David Law said an unexpected drop in enrollment also played a big part.

"This was a very unusual year, which explains part of the reason why we were caught by surprise," Law said.

District officials said that drop happened because of a swing in the number of students open enrolling in and out of the district, leaving them with 42 fewer students.

When that happens, it reduces the amount of state money the district gets.

Superintendent Pinion said district leaders have a plan to deal with the budgetary issues.

"Maybe doing half and half. Some, half -- maybe about $450,000 coming from an increase in taxes and then the other $450,000 coming from some reductions in expenditures. Some cuts in positions," Pinion said.

According to data provided by the district, Marion already has a higher tax rate than surrounding districts.

"We as a school board do not take raising taxes lightly, but in the Marion district we do not have a heavy industry base. We also are landlocked, so we don't have growth potential. So, our sources of revenue are pretty limited," Law said.

District leaders said nothing was off the table during this budget discussion.

"One of the things we are going to look at seriously is the possibility of a four-day week," Law said.

They're considering everything for potential savings.

The board president said he believes in all of the employees in the district, so losing people would be difficult. District leaders, however, said 80 percent of the budget is salary and benefits, which makes it a likely place for some cuts.

The school board has a meeting on Monday, March 10 where it will lay all the budget-cutting ideas that they've received from staff and administrators. The board will discuss how much each idea could save and if it's a possible cut. District leaders said the board would likely vote on what actions to take during its March 31 meeting.

The district needs to finish the budget by mid-April.